Babylon 5: The Lost Tales – music by Christopher Franke

Returning to the musical world of Babylon 5 for the first time since 2002’s one-off Legend Of The Rangers pilot, Christopher Franke makes it seem as though he never went away. The Lost Tales’ music is rife with sounds that I associate with late 80s and early 90s electronic music, which takes me right back to the beginnings of Babylon 5 itself, while his compositional style feels like season 5 is still running Wednesday nights on TNT.

As has already been noted in the DVD review, The Lost Tales is split into two segments on a single DVD, and as such the soundtrack follows suit. At just under 40 minutes, The Lost Tales may seem like a throwback to the days of the one-score-per-disc “episodic” CDs of the late ’90s, but as The Lost Tales itself is abbreviated, with both of its stories not quite racking up 80 minutes total, this isn’t a complete surprise. The music is presented in order, starting with the underscore for the incredibly effective intro sequence and going straight into Lochley’s side of the story, Over Here. Comprising the first 13 tracks, Over Here is largely a rumbling, menacing low drone, with a few moments of apocalyptic flavoring (the church organ in “Energy” and the heartbeat-as-rhythm in “Devil Threat”). While it all sounds authentically Babylon 5 just by virtue of being Christopher Franke music, it’s subtly different from his episode scores of the past.

As with the DVD itself, things really kick into gear starting with track 14 and Sheridan’s story, Over There. The music becomes quite a bit more active, with Franke bringing some of the industrial rhythms and pulsing strings into play that characterized the music from the first season of Babylon 5. In that way, the music from Over There almost goes back in time further than the story itself does, but it’s good stuff. But the end title music, which had no dialogue or effects to compete with, is where Franke finally cuts completely loose, hitting us with apocalyptic choir that surely would’ve spruced things up in Over Here. The Lost Tales on CD is a soundtrack where I got to the end and suddenly thought that the composer was holding back too much during the body of the show itself.

Curiously, while there are opportunities to quote material from the show’s past, Franke chooses only to return to the theme from the end of Sleeping In Light and the opening title theme from season five. Sheridan himself had quite a striking theme in season two, and the show itself had a more enduring theme early on than the season five variant.

3 out of 4The good news is that, as with the DVD itself, the music of the Lost Tales has room for improvement in the future, provided of course that this direct-to-DVD series drums up sales figures that merit its continuation (and if the same holds true for the soundtrack). While I didn’t think the DVD (or its musical score) was perfect, I’m enthusiastic enough about the potential of the Lost Tales to come along for another ride – and another listen.

Order this CD

  1. Intro 1 (0:51)
  2. Main Title (0:33)
  3. Opening (1:23)
  4. The Priest (1:24)
  5. Exorcism (1:13)
  6. The Stench (0:54)
  7. Your Name (4:07)
  8. Energy (1:24)
  9. Devil Threat (2:15)
  10. The Dream (0:57)
  11. Log Search (1:18)
  12. Send Back (3:15)
  13. Epilogue 1 (1:39)
  14. Intro 2 (1:36)
  15. Londo (0:44)
  16. G’Kar (1:57)
  17. Hyperspace (0:34)
  18. Destruction (1:05)
  19. Kill (1:58)
  20. I’m Save (1:00)
  21. Describe (1:16)
  22. The Station (1:08)
  23. Starfury (1:11)
  24. Prepare (2:28)
  25. Landing (0:36)
  26. Party (0:30)
  27. Epilogue 2 (0:36)
  28. End Credits (1:32)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 39:25

Crusade – music by Evan H. Chen

Crusade - music by Evan H. ChenI already liked the music, and the musical style, of Crusade before the CD arrived. But as with most good film and TV soundtracks, hearing the music away from the clutter of dialogue and sound effects revealed hidden depths that are hard to explore even with the best of TV speakers. The music of Crusade has numerous fascinating and challenging layers that quickly distinguish it from the body of music established for Babylon 5.

One thing that surprised me was the variety of vocal effects incorporated into the music. To be fair, Chris Franke’s B5 music utilized vocal effects, including two or three straightforward rock/blues songs, and much more frequently a very good sample of operatic female vocals. But Evan Chen’s vocal effects range from chanting (on the “Shanghai Tan” track, one of my favorites) to baby talk and Art of Noise-esque processed vocal samples (“My Way”), to something that almost sounds like doo-wop backing vocals, along with more vocal percussion effects (“Rainbow”). Whether in instrumental music or popular music, vocals are one area where many artists forget to experiment. Soundtracks particularly fall victim to this – they either have no vocals, or they become banal “songtracks” mined from the current Top 40. I was pleasantly surprised whenever I heard human voices, or even inventive uses of sampled human voices.

If I could single out any one element of Chen’s music that is responsible for getting me hooked on his sound very early on, it’s the percussion. Put simply, the music from Crusade rocks. In places, it begs for extended mixes. Now, it’s not all percussion all the time, but when a beat does kick in, it kicks the door down. But when a solid rhythm appears, it has a reason to do so – it’s not like some UPN sitcom with a burst of generic hip-hop for scene transitions. Some of the better cues on the Crusade CD feature an almost industrial groove which impresses me more than a lot of what’s on the radio these days. I wouldn’t hesitate to add “Shanghai Tan” or “Mars Dome” to a party mix tape – and I have no doubt that someone would probably ask “Who played that?”

To be fair, it’s not all dance beats. There are synth-orchestral passages which rival the grandeur achieved on Crusade’s TV predecessor (including Alwyn’s Story and Battlestation). If there’s a problem with the Crusade CD, it is that – barring the release of Chen’s music from A Call To Arms (and I sincerely hope Sonic Images still has that title in the works!) – there will be no more music released from this series unless someone rescues the show itself.

Lest I forget, the wistfully hopeful main title theme and end credits are worth repeat listening as well. There’s more going on in the main title sequence than Gary Cole and Peter Woodward exchanging cryptic questions and answers.

And to give a rare pat on the back to the label, I was enormously pleased to see the Crusade CD given some very colorful packaging, a far cry from the almost generic presentation that the Babylon 5 CDs have fallen into (though I’m sure that’s likely a side effect of the fact that the B5 soundtracks seem to be released by the half-dozen anymore).

My advice for Hollywood, or perhaps for Sonic Images’ A&R department, whichever comes first, is to pick Evan Chen up and give him carte blanche. It doesn’t have to be a science fiction project – in fact, probably better if it isn’t SF, so as not to stereotype Chen or his sound into a particular genre.

4 out of 4
The resulting music would probably be eclectic, and yes, like Crusade, it might challenge some common soundtrack conventions and sensibilities. But that makes it all the more interesting and involving to hear. My first reaction to A Call To Arms, the B5 movie which secured the Crusade gig for Evan Chen, was “I have no idea what I’m hearing…but I like it.” I think fans of Crusade, or even skeptics who balked at the thought that Chris Franke wouldn’t be scoring the new series, may have the same reaction. I can only do so much analyzing of the music – you really have to hear it for yourself.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (1:30)
  2. Hyperspace (5:45)
  3. Future Pleasure (2:46)
  4. Elizabeth (3:39)
  5. Galen’s Wrath (4:42)
  6. Sorrow (6:57)
  7. Shanghai Tan (2:58)
  8. Patterns of Soul (6:41)
  9. Alwyn’s Story (6:13)
  10. Mars Dome (5:03)
  11. Battlestation (3:15)
  12. Rainbow (2:22)
  13. Visitors (6:24)
  14. Invasion (5:37)
  15. My Way (2:09)
  16. End Credits (0:36)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 68:14

Babylon 5: And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place

Babylon 5: And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place soundtrackOriginally offered as a bonus CD available only to readers of Babylon 5 Magazine who buy two other titles from Sonic Images (yeah, I’m just enough of a hardcore fan to have actually broken down and done this), this third season gem is probably best remembered – at least in a musical sense – because of the nearly-creepy scene in which Refa, Londo’s murderous political adversary, dies at the hands of a pack of Narns while the strains of an old-fashioned gospel song (being sung simultaneously in a church service aboard Babylon 5) joyously extolls the horrible fate awaiting sinners who don’t repent. Much 4 out of 4of the music from the episode itself is just a wee bit forgettable (though there are some unique cues that didn’t appear before or after this episode), and I imagine most people who, like myself, go through the convoluted process of getting this title are probably biting just for the catchy gospel tune.

Order this CD

  1. Teaser (3:17)
    • The Status Quo (1:34)
    • Londo’s Plan (0:13)
  2. Act One (4:52)
    • Arrival of the Delegations (1:44)
    • Dinner Plans (0:56)
    • Londo Threatens Vir (0:49)
    • Taking Meetings (1:30)
  3. Act Two (3:25)
    • Londo’s Promise (1:23)
    • G’Kar’s Request / Vir Kidnapped (2:13)
  4. Act Three (4:21)
    • Church Meeting Plan (0:20)
    • Vir Gets Scanned (1:30)
    • Dexter’s Story / Narn Homeworld (1:54)
    • Refa Prepares The Attack (0:38)
  5. Act Four (9:32)
    • Refa Is Trapped (7:35)
    • No Hiding Place (1:32)
    • Refa’s End (0:23)
  6. Act Five (2:30)
    • The New Fleet (1:53)
    • End Title (0:37)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 27:59

Mira Furlan – Songs From Movies That Have Never…

Mira Furlan - Songs From Movies That Have Never Been MadeThis surprising entry from another member of the cast of Babylon 5 is impossible to pin down. One moment, the backing tracks are thumping club music, and a few minutes later, the music takes on an austere, hymnal tone. And on the next song, we’re treated to a dreamy heavy-music, light-voice tune along the lines of Julee Cruise’s style. No two songs are alike. Highlights include the exotic-sounding Izawe, the aforementioned Julee Cruise-esque “Two Tickets To Anywhere”, the amusing rap “Not Your Way”, and the unique multilingual “Children’s Song”. My one complaint: “Dreaming”, which opens and closes the album, is far too long and repetitive, though if I had to listen to one version or the other, it would be the closing version, over which Mira delivers a rapid-fire succession of her “favorite thingz” (the track’s subtitle). The songs jump in and out of several languages, including English and Mira’s native Yugoslavian, and many of the tunes have a distinctly exotic feel. I’ll say this: Claudia Christian can sing about 3 out of 4threesomes all she likes, but Mira Furlan’s voice is much sexier, and she’s singing about mice and squirrels.

The album also has a PC-compatible multimedia component, in which we supposedly get to look at the “movies that have never been made” in the form of short music videos.

Order this CD

  1. Dreaming (5:20)
  2. Izawe (3:09)
  3. Feo Bajondo (5:29)
  4. Travelling (3:28)
  5. Not Your Way (3:28)
  6. The Sea More (1:17)
  7. 17 Names of Marduk (5:08)
  8. The Children’s Song (3:43)
  9. Ugom (2:36)
  10. Fear of Love (3:25)
  11. Dreaming (My Favorite Thingz) (5:15)

Released by: Infinite Visions
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 40:01

Babylon 5: The Long Night

Babylon 5: The Long Night soundtrackFor an episode that led into the final chapters of the series’ Shadow War cycle, as well as an episode that saw the assassination of the mad Centauri Emperor Cartagia, The Long Night has a surprisingly subdued musical score. Subdued isn’t necessarily bad, though – instead of playing up the drama of the moment, Chris Franke seems to be concentrating more on playing out the implications. Like the music, these events will stretch out quite a bit longer than anyone expects. Some of the better tracks here include the solitary drum beat heard as the horribly beaten G’Kar is paraded through the streets of Narn en route to his execution, and the pounding cue heard as he breaks free of his chains, creating 4 out of 4a distracting spectacle that will allow Londo to rid the Centauri of their megalomaniacal ruler…well, almost. More than that would be telling. The music accompanying the scenes set aboard Babylon 5, especially Sheridan’s surprising briefing for a Ranger named Erricson and the final scene of the episode, is also worth a listen, dovetailing nicely into Into The Fire.

Order this CD

  1. Giants in the Playground / Conspiracy / Main Title (4:27)
  2. Couch Conversation / A Soldier’s Promise / The "Throne Room" / The
    Plot / Subjective Humor
  3. Cartagian Justice / Cartagia Murdered (3:20)
  4. Londo, Prime Minister / Planet Killer At Work / Vir’s Good Heart (5:31)
  5. Anticipation of Natives / Explaining the Mission / Erikson’s Special
  6. Narn Celebration / What G’Kar Endured / Sheridan’s Poem / End Title (3:35)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 24:32

Babylon 5: The River Of Souls

Babylon 5: The River Of Souls soundtrackTo accompany the third and (story-wise, at least) least successful Babylon 5 television movie, Christopher Franke turned in an atypical (for Babylon 5) score full of ethnic instrumentation (or at least good synthesized facsimiles thereof) and haunting choral textures – a good choice, since River of Souls is more or less a traditional ghost story, with archaeological elements that also go along with Egyptian Mummy tales, in a science fiction setting.

Franke has made frequent use of sampled choir in his past Babylon 5 soundtracks, especially during the late third and early fourth seasons at the height of the series’ Shadow War story arc. But for River Of Souls, Franke managed to work chanting into the mix, making this soundtrack quite unique among his B5 soundtracks. There are also some chords and instruments, probably Electronic Wind Instruments, that instantly call up a Mediterrenean millieu, perfect for River Of Souls‘ resurrected-evil trappings. Just as Franke’s music for Thirdspace used theremin to ensure an almost-subliminal connection between that movie’s artifact and unearthly terrors, Franke also relies on that subliminal identification to carry this score off, and it works.

Track three is probably the highlight of the entire disc, including the excellent Soul Hunters cue with its eerily echoing percussion, and the lengthy but equally haunting “Lost Souls Of Ralga” sequence, a flashback showing the Soul Hunters’ descent upon a helpless planet whose population was assumed to be dying.

And yes, every single lick of cheesy organ lounge music from the movie’s annoyingly out-of-place “holobrothel” scenes is included, frequently butting in on the good stuff…but on its own, if one can try to forget the connection, it’s pretty funky (and amusing) in its own right.

I guess the music from River Of Souls was mixed down savagely for broadcast…because I never would have guessed from watching the broadcast that the music would stand up to this much scrutiny. Truthfully, the score is better than some of the story!

4 out of 4And there’s a bonus at the end of the last track: the real end credit music, which was – for those of you who recall watching it on TNT – covered by one of the handful of lounge music source tracks. The music that was intended to go over the credits is quite good – a very punched-up version of the oppressive theme that begins to emerge around track three.

(An amusing little side note: the first announcement of the existence of this CD came in 1998, when it was mentioned as a future release titled River of Soul. Well, I watched the movie when it first aired, and I didn’t see James Brown guest starring…)

Order this CD

  1. Act One (9:17)

    • The River of Souls (1:05)
    • The Discovery (2:27)
    • Under Attack (2:30)
    • A Wonderful Day (0:25)
    • Eye Pain (0:39)
    • “Another Day, Another Holo” (1:36)
    • “Found Anything Lately?” (0:32)
  2. Act Two (8:06)

    • Babylon 5 Sweep (0:21)
    • Garibaldi’s Ultimatum (2:15)
    • The Love Bat (1:10)
    • First Contact (0:44)
    • Meanwhile, Back at the Holobrothel (1:26)
    • “Leave Us Alone!” (1:34)
    • Zack’s Hallway Encounter (0:34)
  3. Act Three (8:15)

    • Bryson and Garibaldi (1:09)
    • Soul Hunters (1:57)
    • The Lost Souls of Ralga (3:54)
    • Grave Predictions (1:13)
  4. Act Four (5:47)

    • A Long Night (1:00)
    • Back to the Holobrothel (1:21)
    • Scissorhands (0:30)
    • Rage Unleashed (0:52)
    • Lochley Into Otherworld (0:56)
    • “We Are Evolving” (1:15)
  5. Act Five (7:51)

    • Defense Activated (0:18)
    • “You Made A Mistake” (4:42)
    • Outside Manifestation (1:00)
    • Lochley Figures It Out (1:49)
  6. Act Six (10:26)

    • Take Action (0:53)
    • Approach Bryson (1:38)
    • “On The Other Hand…” (0:47)
    • Soul Hunter’s Sacrifice (4:13)
    • The Soul Sees What The Soul Sees (0:55)
    • “Like The Old Days” (0:28)
    • “Zack Was Right” (0:37)
    • End Credits (0:51)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 49:55

The Best of Babylon 5 – music by Christopher Franke

The Best of Babylon 5 soundtrackThis CD, originally included free on a limited edition basis with Sierra’s nifty Official Guide To Babylon 5 CD-ROM (and later released separately), contains numerous snippets of the first two Babylon 5 compilation albums and the first series of five episodic soundtracks, arranged in a completely different order and linked together musically to some degree. The selection of cues isn’t bad at all, including the “Into The Abyss” passage from Z’Ha’Dum, and “Mobilization” and “The Big Battle” from Severed Dreams, though the latter is cut painfully short, omitting some very good music which was also left out of the Babylon 5: Messages From Earth compilation; some of the cues, when heard this close together, reveal just how repetitive Franke’s scoring can be, especially with Shadow Dancing‘s cues repeating wholesale passages from Severed Dreams. The second, third and fourth season themes are also included. The real treat is a pair of different versions of a theme specially composed by Chris Franke for the upcoming Babylon 5 space simulator game which is due around Christmas 3 out of 41998 – a very distinctively Babylon-ian piece of music which doesn’t use any of the themes established for the television show. I think this would be a nifty musical intro to the upcoming Crusade spinoff series, in fact. For B5 fans who, unlike me, aren’t ardent collectors of soundtracks, this CD features some of the best of the first five CDs’ music (but also leaves out some of the best too).

Order this CD

  1. Main Title – Second Season (1:27)
  2. The Geometry of Shadows III (3:43)
  3. Sheridan and Father (2:35 – from Severed Dreams)
  4. Mobilization (1:43 – from Severed Dreams)
  5. The Big Battle (5:26 – from Severed Dreams)
  6. The Signal (2:12 – from Shadow Dancing)
  7. Awakening (1:46 – from A Late Delivery to Avalon)
  8. Countdown (0:33 – from Shadow Dancing)
  9. Main Title – Third Season (1:28)
  10. Into the Abyss (8:46 – from Z’Ha’Dum)
  11. Begin to Attack the Shadows (0:51 – from Walkabout)
  12. Emergency Treatment (0:34 – from Shadow Dancing)
  13. The Geometry of Shadows II (3:17)
  14. The Geometry of Shadows I (5:40)
  15. Main Title – Fourth Season (1:38)
  16. Main Theme – Sierra Game (1:34)
  17. Main Theme (Extended) – Sierra Game (6:09)
  18. End Titles (0:37)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1997
Total running time: 50:02